Hungary stands by Russian ‘spy bank’

The transaction creates Hungary’s second-largest telecommunications group, which is also a dominant player in the region’s mobile, fixed voice, internet and television broadcasting markets, the company said. [EPA-EFE/VICTOR LERENA]

Hungary would prefer to continue to be part of the Russia-led International Investment Bank (IIB) but said on Thursday it is yet unclear whether it will be financially able to do so.

The development bank, which has recently moved headquarters to Budapest with the support of the Hungarian government, has been previously described as “Putin’s Trojan Horse” by the opposition and has raised concerns domestically and internationally, especially in the United States.

In 2019, nine Democrat US senators, including then-candidate for the party’s presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders, wrote a letter expressing their reservations about IIB, which “is widely seen as an arm of the Russian secret service.”

The united Hungarian opposition, led by independent mayor Péter Márki-Zay, has dubbed the financial institution a “spy bank” and demanded Hungary’s withdrawal following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia is the bank’s largest shareholder at 47.46%, followed by Hungary (17.37%).

EU countries Bulgaria own 9.93%, Czech Republic (8.80%) Romania (6.14%), Slovakia (6.7%), respectively.

The Czech RepublicBulgaria, Slovakia and Romania already announced that they will quit the Soviet-era bank earlier this week.

“It is a functioning bank that has also provided loans for various developments in Hungary, so I can only say that it is in Hungary’s interest that these developments continue,” chief government spokesperson minister Gergely Gulyás said on Thursday.

However, Gulyás, despite pointing out that other EU countries’ announcements have not yet been followed up with actions, questioned whether there would be enough liquidity for the bank for Budapest to stick with it.

“We do not want to withdraw, the question is whether there will be other options, but that is an economic question”, he said.

(Vlagyiszlav Makszimov | EURACTIV.com with Telex)

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